How much does SEO cost is something we get asked a lot. However, there’s no simple, one-size-fits-all answer. Take a local roofer, electrician and plumber who all work in the same city. They all want their site to appear well on the search engines but the amount of time needed to optimise their website, and therefore the cost of optimisation will be different for each. Why? Well, it depends on lots and lots of different things. One thing is for sure; it’s not cheap and things don’t happen quickly. Here’s a breakdown of what your website needs.
Today, because most of your competitors will also have some kind of web presence, just having a website is no longer good enough. In a sea of other websites, it’s going to be of no use to you if it doesn’t get found when people search online. So it needs to be optimised to ensure that Google sees it in the best possible light.
How much it’s going to cost you to get your website where you want it to be is going to vary massively, depending on what kind of business you’re in, where you work and how many businesses you’re going to compete with. The bigger the city, the more competition you’ll have; therefore the more SEO you’ll have to do.
First of all, let me define SEO for you. In simple terms, SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the practice of manipulating Google’s software (their much talked about ‘algorithm’) into thinking that your website is more important than everyone else’s and that therefore it must appear before everyone else’s for certain searches. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?
The problem here is Google. Google - the biggest search engine in the world - don’t like being manipulated, so they go out of their way to make it as difficult as possible to do this. The easiest way they’ve found, is to change the rules of what they feel is acceptable. They do this frequently and, to make it worse, you can often be penalised for having something in place which was previously acceptable.
There’s an argument that they want you to buy into their clever and very successful AdWords© system, and if SEO was too easy, they’d lose out financially. That idea certainly holds water.
It’s not impossible to successfully optimise your tradesmen website. However, you have to have a good starting point. There’s an old saying “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”. If your website doesn’t have the basics in place, you’ll be wasting your time investing in SEO. So what are these ‘basics’?
Has your domain name been used before? Back in the day when SEO was much easier, domain names were bought, poor websites were built and huge amounts of outbound links were added. Google came down hard on these SEO methods a few years ago and many domains were dropped. Check to make sure your domain hasn’t been used and/or blacklisted previously.
How well built is your website? If your website is poorly constructed, has content which has been stolen from another site or takes too long to load, this won’t be seen in a very good light by Google.
Is the website responsive? By this, we mean does the website change depending on which device it’s being viewed on? With more and more people searching on their mobile device or tablets it is no longer enough for it to look good and work efficiently on a standard sized computer alone. Google knows this so they make it harder to optimise unresponsive websites.
How well written is the website content? The content on your site must be well written, concise, engaging but most importantly, must be absolutely unique. Not only could Google potentially penalise you if you’ve stolen someone else’s content, but if your words fail to hit the spot, those hard to get visitors could click away and look for someone else.
Is the website written to entice people to read several pages? Does your website encourage interaction? Will they click through to pages of interest? The more pages people read, bookmark, revisit and link to, the better. Fail to do this and your SEO goals will take a lot longer to achieve.
Do you constantly update the content on your website? Google likes fresh, new, relevant, engaging content. Old, unchanging static pages won’t help you when it comes to optimisation.
Once you’re sure your website has all the basics in place, you need to start on the off-site stuff. This is where you need to have plenty of time, knowledge and experience in order to succeed.
How many citations do you have in place? Citations are really mentions of your company name, address and phone number on websites which Google trusts. The more good quality citations you have, the easier it will be to optimise your site.
Do you have continuity of NAP? NAP stands for Name, Address, Phone number. It’s vital that your NAP appears in exactly the same way on each and every citation. It’s not just a matter of having good ones, but scouring the web to find any that are incorrect. You'll be surprised at how many you will have accumulated since your business was started.
How many inbound links do you have to your website? A link, from another website to yours, particularly if it’s a highly relevant link, is another trust signal as far as Google is concerned. Lots of (relevant) links = lots of trust - as long as the links are from trusted sites.
Are you active on social media? Google is placing an increasing amount of emphasis on ‘social signals’ because they believe, quite rightly, that the web’s users will be the best judge of a company, service or product which is available to others.
How many reviews does your business have and are they spread around the web? Customer reviews are a vital tool for SEO. The more you can get, the better. It’s not just about getting the volume of reviews but managing it and monitoring it to make sure there is a steady flow, that they are balanced and realistic in terms of rating and sentiment.
With all of the above taken into account, you must understand that SEO is an ever changing landscape, so some SEO activity that works today may not work tomorrow. It’s also important to know that SEO is really nothing but guesswork. You need to continually test and measure what you’ve done to ensure that you haven’t been wasting your time, or worse, done things which Google will penalise you for.
So, how much is it going to cost to employ a company to do everything above? Well, the sky’s the limit in terms of what SEO ‘gurus’, ‘experts’ or ‘wizards’ (they like to give themselves a grand title) want to charge you. 12 month contracts and bills of £500 per month are not uncommon. I’ve spoken to several small companies who have paid in excess of £1,000 per month. When you consider that this expense is entirely speculative and that, sometimes, SEO doesn’t work as expected, you need to have quite a fat wallet.
The world of optimisation is, to say the least, volatile. As such, you’ll find that there are no (sane) SEO companies who will guarantee that their efforts will get you to the top of page 1 for your chosen keywords. If they do, run for the hills. When you get there, keep running and when you think you’re finally safe, run some more!
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